Unbeknownst to some in her ever-growing fanbase, Courtney Barnett began her career in grunge band Rapid Transit. Though the Australian singer went solo and veered towards an alternative rock style, she always retained that grunge sensibility. On her debut LP she mixed incredibly catchy riffs with interesting and tongue-twisting lyrics. The result was a set of rock earworms that stuck themselves deep in the recesses of your head. Her single “Pedestrian at Best” is one of the most infectious alt-rock songs of recent memory. Part of the charm is Barnett’s incredibly sarcastic delivery, found in both her lyrics and via interesting inflections in her vocals. Last year, Barnett teamed up with folk hero Kurt Vile for Lotta Sea Lice. This showed a lot more sincere side of Barnett, such as on the easy going 'Over Everything': Courtney showed her chops as a jam artist and she also returned to a subdued sound that could be found on her early EPs.

On Tell Me How You Really Feel, our indie heroine sticks with this sincere sound and lyricism. Though she still infuses her verses with her unique poetic style, this album feels a lot closer to Barnett's heart, speaking more openly and directly to the listener. Whether it be on “Need a Little Time” which shows an exhausted Courtney pleading for a break from herself and her loved ones. It is a very simple topic, but Barnett’s signature charisma, keeps this or any track from feeling underwritten. She perfectly pairs this lyrical content with a charming strumming guitar that compliments it completely. Or whether it be the brutally truthful statement on 'Nameless, Faceless' simply appropriating a Margarete Atwood quote into her own experience. “"I Wanna walk through the park in the dark/Men are scared that women will laugh at them." Adding that she has to hold her keys between her fingers. Showing the insanity of the different mind-sets of the men and women. However the track doesn’t start in a place of anger. The intro feels almost upbeat as Courtney takes pity on an isolated male figure with “Pent up rage.” But that pent up rage translate into the song as it builds into the cathartic grunge fuelled chorus.

This is one of the strongest parts of the album, Courtney manages to strike a balance between sombre acoustic music and guitar heavy grunge. Utilizing the balance to create atmosphere from song to song. Although on a surface level, most of the songs have very simple progression and stick mostly to a verse chorus verse formula. Courtney manages to create a diverse set of style without veering from signature sound. 'I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch' continues the disgust on 'Nameless, Faceless' but elevates it into a punkier sound. As the song builds flourishes of metal guitar riffs are thrown in and though it is criminally brief, it is definitely one of Courtney heaviest sounding songs. Which is quite an achievement to pair that with some of her most intimate and quiet submissions into her discography. The catchy song-writing ability isn’t lost on this sophomore effort either, in fact, Courtney finds more diverse ways to write an incredibly tight track, without repeating the same formula over and over. Which is an improvement over her debut, which though had more memorable singles, repeated a lot of the same tricks throughout the track list.

Though still distinctly a Courtney Barnett track, 'Help Your Self' feels influenced by blues and hard rock, it has a simplistic but impactful driving drumbeat that carries the entire track. The track builds and builds to a cathartic guitar lick chorus. This hard rock aesthetic should really fall flat paired with Courtney’s almost monotone vocal style, but it doesn’t, in fact it fits perfectly and offers a more refreshing sound that the majority of modern blues and rock revival bands. Courtney is definitely known to hold her own as a rock icon, her live shows translate even some of her quiet song into energetic mosh worthy sections of the gig. On this album she has created a set of tracks that would only further add to her incredible live shows, with a range of sounds and genre influences her signature style. Though some of the lyrics are simplistic and not as colourful as some of the imagery from her debut, she takes a more refined approach to the song writing that delivers an incredibly streamlined set of singles.

Though still maintaining some of the ferocity of the first album on singles like 'Nameless, Faceless,' the album is heavily waited to the quieter and subtler tracks. The album could have benefited from a further exploration into Barnette’s flirtation with punk and hard rock riffs. Nonetheless, the album still manages to improve on the song structure of the first and show a more mature side of Courtney Barnett and some of her best instrumentals yet.